Thursday, 1 December 2011

Visual Composition and Stuff

What is composition? Well It is the arrangement of objects in a scene, the better the composition, the more ascetically pleasing the image. Oh lord I sound formal. So lets talk about composition, how many different types are there? Well each art form has it's own set of rules, for example you can get different types of composition in photography than in painting, also cinematography has it's own set but there are some that everyone follow.

The basics of composition starts with the rule of thirds. This technique is based on if you split your page/screen or whatever into 9 sections you have 4 points of intersecting lines. These points highlight the most important part of the image and therefore you should put something there as a focal point. This is no an exact science, many artists put things off the points to have more freedom. But blah blah blah im talking crap.

Next you have the circle, this draws you down to the focal point with a series of objects leading you that way. Its forcing the reader to look at the focal point and so artists usually combine this techniques with the rule of thirds and viola your guaranteed success...right?

Another famous composition technique is the Fibonacci sequence, this draws you into the focal point of the image using a set of mathematical mumbo jumbo apparently i.e more detail/focal point in the point of the spiral and less as you go out.

Okay it's pictures time, so much easier to show in pictures. Here is a picture I found on the web just a random waterfall scene but it follows all the compositional rules I just mentioned. This makes for a nice shot but there’s so much you can do with images today why just stick to the generic point and click? You see in the rule of thirds you have the most prominent waterfall taking up two cross points in the picture making your attention go there immediately. You see in the circle that the composition draws you into the foggy focal point, it takes you down this path leading your eye across the photo.And in the Fibonacci spiral the clouds even draw you toward the focal point due to their direction. 

But there’s so much you can do with images today why just stick to the generic point and click? you see in the image below the photography used a fish eye lens to distort the perspective and it has this awesome curvature that almost resembles the Fibonacci spiral in its shape. 

So what about art? We have the freedom to create whatever we want but if we don't adhere to the basic rules of visual composition then the reader will get lost and won't be able to tell whats going on. So lets take an example of good and bad composition.

First off good composition, here is concept art from assassin's creed. Altair sits on two cross points on the rule of thirds and is the most important part of the scene but you see the ledge he's standing on is shaped like an L. This frames the picture as well as leads you to the focal point. One you hit there you then follow the line of people in the distance. They are walking left and so your eye does to. This leads you to Altair's target, although its in the distance and you don't have much detail you can tell all this from just the way the picture is laid out. Even the eagle is point at the target for you. Make it easy for the reader to read...simple. I did some flow lines you see everything points you in the direction of the target and it flows nicely. Even the background birds have a meaning.

Example number two, this is a choreographed scene that has been rendered for concept purposes but to me it's unreadable. The large expanse of white sky separate the image into  two parts and so you are forced to decide. I picked the dark side and ended up staring at the overly large hand and thought it was a face for a while as I got distracted with the pink shirt. after eye flicking I found its tiny head and it make a little more sense. The horizon line is purposely low but it just looks wrong, if you put the horizon line so low you expect some sort of perspective change to emphasis the fact. Other words it doesn't have a purpose. The lines follow the perspective to lead you to....nothing...great how anti-climatic.

So this leads me to the task in which Mr Powels has set, above is my first final of the year. It's alright, I choose this image because it had the most components to change about and I'm pretty pleased about the composition. Time to cut and paste. Below are eight thumbnails of the above final, rearranged to see if I could make any more interesting compositional decisions using the exact same objects.

So the first set of four, not bad not bad. I hate the last one as having the gazebo right in plain view is very distracting. The third one I quite liked as it draws you to the focal point using the trees and emphasizing how far away it is, perspective actually works kids.

The next set isn't as strong but I like the last two. I used the framing technique in the last image to structure the picture and keep you within the bounds of the painting. You are took up the trees and follow the sky back down to the gazebo, the point of interest. In the image to the left of that I used skew to give the trees a tilt, using circle composition to draw you in to the focal point again.

What have I learned? Well doing this quick minute mock ups really helps visually of what you want. You can have all the theory in the world but if you don't do anything it's pointless. It's like 3ds Max, you can read hundreds of books but if you don't actually get on the program and muck about with it then its all a waste of time. Recently I have been watching Feng Zhu's youtube posts and it has really helped me understand why we construct paintings the way we do. Feng Zhu is a concept artist and holds a very expensive but awesome school in teaching concept art, so you see student examples and how he changes them to make them work visually. He talks about flow lines and composition as well as colour and number of useful techniques to help you produce work faster and be more thoughtful when doing your art. I highly recommend watching his videos;

Composition...Nailed it lol.

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